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Maintenance key to combat airpower mission

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Joseph Swafford
  • 455th Air Expeditionary Wing

Maintainers deployed to the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing from their home station at Aviano Air Base, Italy, are always at work maintaining a squadron of combat-ready F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft.

Maintainers are the first and last people pilots see when flying combat sorties; they’re always there to ensure the pilot has a properly functioning aircraft. Without these dedicated Airmen the combat airpower mission at Bagram would come to a halt.

“The main goal of maintenance is to give quality aircraft to aircrew at all times,” said Master Sgt. Martin Noel, 455th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron production superintendent. “The style is the same as home station, just with a little more pep in our steps here due to the increased amount of flying we do and the fact the mission we do here is real compared to training back at our home station.”

The role maintenance Airmen play keeping the aircraft mission ready is critical to the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing being able to deliver decisive airpower in support of NATO’s Resolute Support mission and Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.

“The mission would stop here without maintainers,” said Airman 1st Class Donal Cantero, 455th EAMXS. “We wouldn’t have operations and the jets wouldn’t be ready or available to complete the combat mission here.”

Being in a deployed environment brings extra challenges to the maintenance Airmen at Bagram.

“The tempo is significantly higher due to the amount of time we have to turn aircraft and that we’re a 24 hour flying operation here,” said Noel. “At home station we fly for a 12 hour period, then have a 12 hour period to fix the aircraft. Here there is no period to fix. We have to fix as we can and when moments arise.”

Even though being in a deployed environment brings extra challenges, the Airmen of the 455th EAMXS meet each challenge and keep the aircraft in the sky.

“The stress is a little higher in a deployed environment and there is a little more pressure because of the mission we’re doing here,” said Noel. “We train at home station and we also had two months of pre-deployment training in Las Vegas that prepped the maintainers quite well, and they’re handling the stress perfectly.”

The long hours pay off for the maintainers when they see their hard work take off and return to Bagram.

“I still love it, the hours come with the workload,” said Cantero. “You just push through and see the mission success rate go up. It gives a sense of pride seeing the jets takeoff in full afterburner, and then seeing them come back without bombs."

Noel added, “I’ve been doing it for 16 years now and still enjoy watching the birds take off, and I still take great pride in knowing the maintenance that my team is doing is quality maintenance.”